Chapter One: Battle for the Soul is a confusing experience. It is hard to be sure whether it is intended as entertainment for an audience, therapy for the participants or promotional material for the company. The show is developed in conjunction with, and partially performed by, the Fallen Angels Performance Group (FAPG) – made up of recovering addicts- supported by the professional Fallen Angels Dance Theatre (FADT).
After such a big build up it is a relief that the dancing does not disappoint. The FAPG perform two short pieces linked by a blank verse poem on the seductive nature of addiction. The first dance is bleak and intimidating as the group stalk towards and retreat from the audience before their selfish absorption in their compulsions leads them to abandon one of their community. The second dance is more hopeful as the group work together, reaching and stretching towards their goals, and climaxes in a dramatic lift. The score by Thomas Ashbrook appropriately moves from driving brutal rock to a warmer, more organic, African based sound.
The performance of the FADT is, as one would expect, more technically accomplished and the movements more fluid and dramatic. Director Paul Bayes Kicher subtly links the various dances to provide a narrative. The dancers degenerate from the bounding joyful opening dance through a series of pieces that explore the ecstasy and desperation of addiction using movements that become increasingly cramped, twisted and agonised.
Bayes Kicher is, however, occasionally too literal. He dresses the dancers in deaths-head masks to suggest how the ritualised behaviour of clubbers high on drugs can reduce them to zombies rather than trust his cast to use dance moves to achieve the same effect. The dancing is supplemented by a narrator in the tradition of the MC from Cabaret. But after the dignified performance of the FAPG the technique feels coarse and fails to achieve the shock value intended.
The objectives of the FADT are hard to fault in providing practical support for recovering addicts. In terms of the presentation of the show, however, one wishes they had more faith in both the performers and the material to demonstrate the success of their methods in a practical manner without the lengthy build up.